STARRED REVIEW
July 2018

The importance of beavers

By Ben Goldfarb

As descriptive phrases go, “busy as a beaver” is right on target. Most of us probably don’t give much thought to the second largest member of the rodent family, except perhaps when they become a nuisance by felling trees and plugging waterways in residential areas. But did you know just how integral beavers are to the environment?

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As descriptive phrases go, “busy as a beaver” is right on target. Most of us probably don’t give much thought to the second largest member of the rodent family, except perhaps when they become a nuisance by felling trees and plugging waterways in residential areas. But did you know just how integral beavers are to the environment?

In his intriguing debut, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb details the multitude of ways beavers impact the landscape. Their dams help create wetlands and water storage, reviving aquifers for farms and ranches and providing homes for a diverse assortment of flora and fauna. Without beavers, wetlands and meadows dry up, streams are altered, and countless forms of wildlife become homeless.

Through interviews with experts in the field, scientific studies, statistical analysis and his own experiences crisscrossing the U.S. and the U.K. to witness beavers up close and personal, Goldfarb explains how restoring these “ecosystem engineers” to their natural habitat can save tens of millions of dollars each year and help combat drought, climate change and other environmental issues.

Goldfarb delves millions of years into the past, explaining how much North America’s terrain has changed since its colonization. Trappers seeking lush beaver pelts brought these “hairy banknotes” to the brink of extinction. But conservationists saved and even reintroduced beavers to some areas in an effort to restore the land to its former status, and today a fervent group of “Beaver Believers” help spread the news that we need to live in harmony with this keystone species.

As Goldfarb reinforces, beavers are “nothing less than continent-scale forces of nature, in large part responsible for sculpting the land upon which we Americans built our towns and raised our food.” It’s a wake-up call that needs to be answered.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Eager

Eager

By Ben Goldfarb
Chelsea Green
ISBN 9781603587396

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